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Cooks Corner

By By Lisa Tindell
Sometimes getting a great tip is better than getting a great recipe. That's what I've decided to do for you this week.
I've gotten tips in the past on how to open stuck-on jar lids, how to remove burned tastes from slightly over-cooked foods and have found many tips invaluable around the kitchen. Some of the tips I've gotten have been teaching ones on how to choose the right vegetable, fruit or cut of meat. I hope that these tips will help you prepare tastier, healthier and more economical dishes.
When selecting fresh fish, follow these general rules:
Eyes and gills should be bright, clear and bulging.
Gills should be reddish colored or at least pin and be fresh smelling.
Scales should be shiny and tight to the skin.
Fish should be firm and spring back when pressed.
Never buy fish with a strong, unpleasant "fishy" smell.
Generally speaking, thin fish should be broiled, grilled or microwaved. Thicker fish should be baked or poached. Fish like salmon and trout are best grilled or broiled but red snapper or perch are best cooked using moist heat such as poaching or microwaving.
Poultry
You know the main rule: never cross-contaminate poultry with anything.
When shopping for poultry products always choose packages that are tightly wrapped and without tears or holes in the wrapping.
Don't buy packages marked "previously frozen" unless you plan to cook it or freeze it within three days.
If you do freeze poultry products, it is best to transfer them to freezer-safe bags or containers. Store packaging alone is not sufficient to prevent freezer burn or contamination in your freezer. You can leave the poultry in store packaging only if you place the entire package in a freezer bag or wrap it in heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Ground chicken and turkey are becoming popular sources of protein without fat. If you are using these products, you may find these tips helpful.
Sincere these ground products have a softer texture than ground beef, add some fine dry bread crumbs and a beaten egg when making patties or meatballs.
To keep the patties moist, add a small amount of sour cream, cranberry or tomato sauce.
Meat and Pork
When shopping, choose packages that are cold and tightly wrapped with no holes or tears in the packaging.
Buy no later than the last day of the "best before" date. Get the meat home and in the refrigerator as soon as possible. If you aren't cooking the meat that day, get it into the freezer.
Store in the refrigerator so that none of the meats' juices drip onto other foods. Store at or just below 40 degrees.
When preparing prime rib, rib eye, tenderloin, strip loin or top sirloin cuts of meat, use the guidelines:
Rare – Internal Temp of 140 degrees
Medium – Internal Temp of 160 degrees
Well – Internal Temp of 170 degrees.
Roasting times are 20 minutes per pound for rare; 25 minutes per pound for medium; and 30 minutes per pound for well.
Roasts, whether beef or pork, should stand, loosely covered, for 10 minutes before slicing.
Salads
The greener the green, the more nutritious the salad.
Tearing greens tenderly is better than chopping. The tears are more natural, so the break-down of the green will be slower.
Try something different: some good bets are arugula, endive, watercress, Bibb. Most produce departments of grocery stores carry pre-washed, bagged mixes perfect for a change. You'll find Spring Mix with spinach, arugula and other baby greens and even a nice Romaine salad mix. Try something different in your greens and other toppings.
Add fresh herbs. If you have rosemary, thyme, basil or other fresh herbs growing in a pot, snip some and add to your favorite salads. You'll find a kick in the addition of these fresh herbs.
Vegetables
Don't salt your vegetables when steaming, microwaving, baking or pan frying. The salt draws liquid from the vegetables and causes uneven cooking. This rule is not true when boiling vegetables.
Cutting or chopping vegetables high in vitamin C releases an enzyme that can destroy the vitamin. To retain the most vitamin content, leave the vegetables whole or in as large a piece as possible until ready to serve.
Roasting adds a good quality to many vegetables. The best vegetables for roasting are potatoes, beets, peppers, squash, carrots, onions. Toss them with a little olive oil to prevent drying out.
To microwave vegetables, remember to add as little water as possible. No water should be left at the end of the cooking time.
When microwaving, cook on high power. The quicker the cooking time, the more nutrients are retained. Don